Saturday, February 14, 2009

Oscar Moore

According to Barney Kessel, Oscar Moore (1916 - 1981) practically invented the role of the guitarist in small combo jazz. We don't know if this is true as is often the case with claims of this kind. What we do know however is that Moore's role in shaping the sound of the Nat King Cole Trio, the first drummerless trio in jazz, was of paramount importance. It is Oscar Moore's guitar we cherish on these 1937-1947 immortal sides the Cole Trio cut for various small labels. Unfortunately, Moore's solo career after leaving Cole never took off and he cut just a handful of records for the Verve and Tampa labels before retiting from the music business altogether and ending up working as a bricklayer in Los Angeles - a cryin' shame. This 1954 recording for the Tampa label with Carl Perkins amply demonstrates what an enormous talent and elegance in delivery Moore possessed.

Oscar Moore: guitar
Carl Perkins: piano
Joe Comfort: bass
Mike Pacheco: bongos
Lee Young: drums

track listing:
1. Roulette
2. The Nearness Of You
3. Love For Sale
4. Body And Soul
5. Kenya
6. Blues In B Flat
7. Up Tempo
8. Buddy Can You Spare A Dime
9. There'll Never Be Another You
10. April In Paris
11. Samson And Delilah Theme
12. Moonlight In Vermont
13. Kiss Me Again
14. Dinner For One
15. Walkin Home
16. Warm Up

Rec. 1954 in Hollywood, CA

PS track #2 from this very album can be heard on youtube here (unfortunately the uploader has disabled embedding giving us all a hard time, but we'll cope somehow)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Wes Montgomery - Live at Jorgies (1961)

The small VGM label issued two valuable LPs back in the '80s (VGM 0001 and VGM 0008) featuring Wes Montgomery in a live setting at Jorgies Jazz Club in St. Louis, MO, on August 19, 1961. In them we could hear Wes stretching out on four pieces in a quartet setting with brothers Buddy (on piano and vibes) and Monk (bass) along with drummer Billy Hart. These versions of "All of You," Milt Jackson's "Heartstrings," "Summertime" and Wes's "Bock to Bock" range from six to fourteen minutes, are reasonably well-recorded and contain stirring improvisations. This CD reissue contains the first LP plus four additional tracks, recorded in New York in 1963 with Billy Taylor on piano, Grady Tate on drums and vocalist Joe Williams on two of them. Fans of the great guitarist rejoice!

track listing:
1. All Of You
2. Heartstrings
3. Summertime
4. Back To Bach To Bock
5. There Will Never Be Another You
6. A Beautiful Thing*
7. The More I See You
8. More Than Likely*

tracks 1-4 rec. 1961, tracks 5-8 rec. 1963
(*) Joe Williams, vcl

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Barney Wilen - New York Romance (1994)

Sumptuous blowing from the old master on soprano, baritone and tenor saxophones accompanied by stalwarts Kenny Barron on piano, Ira Coleman on bass and Lewis Nash on drums in a set consisting of mostly ballads and mid-tempo numbers, ideal vehicles for the group to display what good jazz is all about through this seminar in group empathy and interplay. Recorded at the historic Van Gelder Studios, Englewood Cliffs, NJ, on June 19 & 20, 1994. Highly recommended.

1. No Problem '94
2. Cry Me a River
3. Blues Walk
4. You've Changed
5. You'd Be So Nice to Come Home To
6. Mack the Knife
7. Don't Fence Me In
8. Old Devil Moon
9. I Will Say Goodbye

Barney Wilen - Newport '59

This great record displays Barney Wilen in three different musical settings: Tracks 1 through 4 are from Wilen's first visit to the US in 1959 and his appearance at the renown Newport, RI, Jazz Festival , maybe the first non-US musician to appear there. He is accompanied by a stellar band consisting of Toshiko Akiyoshi, fresh out of Berklee and eager to please US audiences, Tommy Bryant on bass and legend Roy Haynes on drums. Tracks 5 and 6 are recorded in Paris in the company of Clark Terry on trumpet, Bud Powell on piano, Eric Peter on bass and Kenny Clarke on drums - these gentlemen need no introduction. And finally, Thelonious Monk's masterpiece 'Round Midnight is recorded in the company of a local German band while Wilen visited there. Savvy listeners will no doubt notice how mature and original Wilen sounds at such an early age as well as his ability to adapt to the musical situation at hand.

As this disc consists of three dates, sound is a bit sketchy at places, but as a testament to Wilen's genius this is essential listening.

Barney Wilen Quartet
Featuring: Barney Wilen (ts, ss), Toshiko Akiyoshi (p), Tommy Bryant (b), Roy Haynes (d), Clark Terry (tp), Bud Powell (p), Eric Peter (b), Kenny Clarke (d), Evald Heideprim (p), Karl Theodore Geier (b), Eberhard Stengel (d)

Track listing:

Newport Jazz Festival, July 4th, 1959
1. Introduction By Willis Conover
2. Passport (Parker)
3. 'Round Midnight (Monk-Hanighen)
4. Barney's Tune (Wilen)

Paris, 1959
5. No Problem (Jordan)
6. Miguel's Party (Powell)

Düsseldorff, late 50's

7. 'Round Midnight (Monk-Hanighen)

Barney Wilen - Tilt (1957)

Amazing debut as leader for French tenor sax superhero Barney Wilen (1937-1996) who was not even 20 at the time! Recorded in Paris in January 1957 with Maurice Vander (piano), Bibi Rovère (bass) and Al Levitt (drums) on the first side and Jack Cnudde (piano), Bibi Rovère (bass) and Charles Saudrais (drums) on the side two. Probably the rarest and definitely the most sought-after french jazz record of all time in its LP form (pictured below); the playing is to die for, of course.

track listing:

1.Blue n' Boogie
2.Nature boy
3.Melancholy baby
4.Night in Tunisia
5.The way you look tonight
7.Blue monk
9.Think of one
10.Blue n' Boogie - alt. take previously unreleased
11.Nature boy - alt. take previously unreleased
12.Hackensack - alt. take previously unreleased
13.Blue Monk - alt. take previously unreleased
14.We see - previously unreleased
15.Let's call this - previously unreleased

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Gato Barbieri - Last Tango in Paris (1972)

Steeped in controversy upon its release in 1973, director Bernardo Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris has since been called everything from nonutilitarian pornography to a cinematic masterpiece. Two key elements that Bertolucci utilized to breath life into Tango's nihilistic themes and the dark, obsessive relationship at its core were Marlon Brando's harrowing, largely improvised performance and the erotically charged jazz score of self-taught Latin sax virtuoso Gato Barbieri. While the musician's main theme has become a much-covered jazz standard, it's but a tantalizingly sexy sample of the cross-cultural stylings at work in this masterful score. While Barbieri rerecorded the core of his Tango music in lush, fleshier arrangements for the soundtrack album's initial release, this Ryko edition (nearly twice the length of the original) augments those tracks with a compelling half-hour suite of cues culled directly from the film's scoring sessions. By turns stark and sentimental, erotic and experimental, these previously unreleased cues form a revelatory new "second movement" to Barbieri's hauntingly familiar score. ~Jerry McCulley

Gato Barbieri (ts, f, vcl); Franco D'Andrea (p); Franco Goldani, Wolmer Beltrani (accor); Jean-Francois Jenny Clark, Giovanni Tommaso (b); Piero Munari (d); Afonso Vieira (perc, berimbau); Ivanir "Mandrake" do Nascimento (perc, tamb) + 32-piece string orchestra, Oliver Nelson (arr, cond).

track listing:
a. Last Tango In Paris - Tango (Gato Barbieri) - 3:22
b. Jeanne (Gato Barbieri) - 2:33
c. Girl In Black - Tango (Para Mi Negra) (Gato Barbieri) - 2:08
d. Last Tango In Paris - Ballad (Gato Barbieri) - 3:42
e. Fake Ophelia (Gato Barbieri) - 2:56
f. Picture In The Rain (Gato Barbieri) - 1:51
g. Return - Tango (La Vuelta) (Gato Barbieri) - 3:03
h. It’s Over (Gato Barbieri) - 3:14
i. Goodbye (Un Largo Adios) (Gato Barbieri) - 2:31
j. Why Did She Choose You? (Gato Barbieri) - 3:00
k. Last Tango In Paris - Jazz (Gato Barbieri) - 5:43
l. The Last Tango In Paris Suite (Gato Barbieri) - 27:33

Monday, February 9, 2009

Tony WIliams Trio - Young at Heart (1996)

Anthony Tillmon "Tony" Williams (December 12, 1945 – February 23, 1997) was maybe the most important and influential jazz drummer to come to prominence in the 1960s; he first gained fame in Miles Davis' second great quintet at the impossibly young age of 17 along with Herbie Hancock, Ron Carter and Wayne Shorter (as a minor he had to obtain a special police permit to play at jazz joints with the Davis band), so much so he was called by Davis in his autobiography "the center that the group's sound revolved around". His inventive playing helped redefine the role of jazz rhythm section through the use of polyrhythms and metric modulation (transitioning between mathematically related tempos and/or time signatures). As if the above weren't enough, after leaving Miles he formed his own group, Tony Williams Lifetime with John McLaughlin and Larry Young that defined the fusion sound of the 60s and 70s. Yes, Williams loved rock and his playing could be very loud.

Tony Williams was robbed from jazz from a heart attack following routine gall bladder surgery; he was just 51. This, his final recording just 6 months before his untimely death, shows Williams in a more conciliatory mood, sublimating his huge chops and bombastic style for subtler shadings and support for pianist Mulgrew Miller and bassist Ira Coleman, while lessening none of his indefatigable swing as can be heard from their formidable interplay throughout, a fitting farewell from this jazz giant who always stayed young at heart as the album title suggests.

Tony Williams - d
Mulgrew Miller - p
Ira Coleman - b

track listing:

2.Young at Heart
3.On Green Dolphin Street
4.Farewell to Dogma
5.How My Heart Sings
6.The Fool on the Hill
7.Neptune: Fear Not
8.You and the Night and the Music
9. Body and Soul
10.This Here
11.Summer Me, Winter Me

rec. 1996

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Martial Solal & Johnny Griffin - In & Out (2000)

Pianist Martial Solal and tenor saxophonist Johnny Griffin have more in common than their status as septuagenarian French immigrants--Solal moved to Paris from his native Algeria in the 1940s, and Griffin settled in southern France in the '60s. Each plays in a unique style, unimitative and unimitated, informed by a virtuosity rarely heard on their respective instruments. Big words, but the facts remain.

Although he boasts an ambidexterity reminiscent of Art Tatum, Solal uses it in a far more understated way, pencil-sketching the fills and fillips of an arrangement where Tatum would have used tempera flourishes. And Griffin--on this recording, especially--can rise above the fireworks riffing of his hard-bop contemporaries; his colossal technique allows him to develop an idea further than many other saxists could take it, at which point he essentially turns his style into the substance of his improvisations. The 8 tunes on this relatively short (47-minute) disc show a matchup that results in at least Griffin's finest work in years. And why not? Performing with the sensitive, constantly inventive Solal must be like playing a jazz concerto grosso as he turns the keyboard into a chamber orchestra of varied colors and voicings to support Griffin's solos, then expands his own brilliant statements to provide echoes and cues for his partner.

On "Neutralisme," a raffish tone poem by Solal, they volley solo snippets with the telepathic empathy of the great jazz partners from Louis Armstrong and Earl Hines through Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie, and Wayne Shorter and Joe Zawinul. Solal has mesmerized listeners for nearly half a century, but a paucity of U.S. releases has kept him out of the mainstream limelight. In & Out will serve as a splendid introduction for Solal newbies, a reminder of his restless and inspiring creativity for the rest of us, and delightful proof of Griffin's powerful command of line and emotion. ~Neil Tesser

Martial Solal - p
Johnny Griffin - ts

1. You Stepped Out of a Dream
2. Come With Me
3. In and Out
4. Hey Now
5. L' Oreille Est Hardie
6. When You're in My Arms
7. Neutralisme
8. Well, You Needn't

Rec. 1999